Welcome to the five hundred and eighty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre novelist Jan Tilley. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jan.
Jan: Thanks Morgen. I’m so happy to be here chatting with you.
Morgen: Me too, sorry you’ve had to wait so long (since May!) to be here. Please tell us something about yourself, and how you came to be a writer.
Jan: I was born and raised in Northern Ohio, USA. I married my high school sweetheart in 1985 and moved to Pleasure Island, North Carolina. We had two beautiful daughters and lived in the Wilmington, N.C. area for 12 years and then moved back north. We now reside in rural Indiana, in the covered bridge capital of the world.
I loved creative writing in high school and worked as a reporter for our local newspaper for several years, but I never imagined myself writing a book. After my oldest daughter left for college I began what I thought would be a short story. I infused my own feelings about losing my child to the world into a fictional character named after a combination of two teachers at the school where I work.
Anyway, long story short, but the end of summer, much to my surprise, I had written a full-length novel.
Morgen: It’s funny, nor had I. Although I read hefty Stephen King tomes in my teens (under the cover with a torch, so I blame him for me wearing glasses!) I wrote solely short stories (and a nominal amount of poems but very few now) and had always seen writing a novel as a year on one story which I didn’t want to do, and then I found out about NaNoWriMo. 🙂 In the introduction I referred you as ‘multi-genre’, is there a genre that you generally write?
Jan: My first book, Coming About, falls in the contemporary women’s fiction genre with a flair of romance. After I published this book, I decided that I didn’t want to be stuck in the romance genre, so I tried my hand at science-fiction. Let me say, I will never do that again! It was really hard for me to make up an alternate universe and imagine what life would be like for an alien life form. My third novel is fictional suspense, so I still can’t quite figure out what I want to do.
Morgen: I’ve written few science-fiction stories for the same reason (although the one, probably the shortest, in Story a Day May 2012 turned out to be a reader’s favourite). 🙂 The good thing about short stories is that they don’t have to stick to genre and I found myself doing the same with the novels (lad lit then mystery then chick lit – that’s the first one available – then another lad lit then two crime novels, the latter of which is likely to be a series and I say most of my stories have bodies in them so I’ll probably end up being a crime writer… in fact a top agent looked me in the face at the 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference and said “You’re a crime writer, you need to write crime”, so I am. 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Jan: I’ve published three novels to date. Coming About is my women’s fiction, contemporary romance. It’s kind of in the vein of Thelma and Louise. It’s a story about two best friends helping each other through traumatic experiences. My second book Embody, is a science-fiction story about life from an alien perspective. Rogue’s Hollow is my latest novel. It’s a fictional suspense book based on a small town near where I grew up in Northern Ohio. It also falls into the coming of age genre. None of my books fall comfortably into any one category.
Morgen: It doesn’t matter so much these days, especially with the like of Amazon. You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Jan: My first book was published traditionally. I felt very detached from the entire process and wasn’t thrilled with the outcome. I researched Amazon’s new publishing house CreateSpace and fell in love. I decided to give it a try with Embody and had a wonderful experience. I even started my own publishing house, Spenbrook Publishing. I ended up buying back the rights to Coming About and re-publishing it as well with CreateSpace. Rogue’s Hollow is also an offspring of CreateSpace.
Morgen: There’s a debate going on in one of the LinkedIn threads at the moment about CreateSpace, Lightning Source etc. and most of the replies have been favourable. CreateSpace is a paper format, are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
Jan: All three of my books are available on Kindle. I was completely involved in the process from start to finish. Kindle is a wonderful creation. Over the last few months, I’ve had more than 25,000 of my books downloaded on Kindle.
Morgen: 25,000 wow! Congratulations. 🙂 Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jan: Personally, I like the feel of a book in my hand when I read, but I’m slowly moving into the next generation and reading more things on Kindle.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Jan: Coming About was my baby. It was my first and will always have a special place in my heart. After much reader prodding, I’m working on the sequel to it right now. It amazes me how it feels like I’ve come home to visit old friends again. As far as a movie version. My pick for the lead character Rachel would be played by Maria Bello. Hands down, Mark Ruffalo would be Charlie, and Sadie would be beautiful portrayed by Holly Hunter. I could actually hear Holly’s southern infused accent in my head as I wrote the character. She’d be perfect. Danny Glover would make a great Jasper.
Rogue’s Hollow would also make a great film. It has a sweet wholesome air about it, but turns dark quickly with many twists and turns along the way. It would be fun if they filmed a portion of it in the actual town of Rogue’s Hollow in Ohio.
Morgen: A great cast list. I only saw The Piano recently and can see why it was so highly recommended. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Jan: With my first book, Coming About, I had no say. They actually gave me 24 hours to come up with a new title. Originally it was titled, Along for the Ride. The original cover was a sterile blue sailboat which attracted many men to my book signing table who thought it was a book about sailing. When I re-published it, I purchased a beautiful soft sunset picture of a sailboat. You can now easily see that it’s a women’s fiction / romance novel.
The titles and covers are vital to my books. I’m sorry, but everyone judges a book by its cover!
Morgen: They do, and I can see why your original cover would be misinterpreted. You do hope that publishers know what they’re doing but in some cases they clearly don’t. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jan: I’m currently working on the sequel to Coming About. It’s fun revisiting my old friends and seeing where their lives are leading them.
Morgen: I love writing more than one piece with the same character. I’ve done that with some of my Tuesday Tales but they’ve been main characters each time. It’s only just now that I plan to have minor characters become major and vice versa. I know series are popular with readers (and therefore agents / publishers) because they warm to characters and don’t want to let them go. As writers, we should feel the same. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jan: It’s very rare that I have writer’s block. I suffer more from not having enough time to write. I work a full-time job and have a family to keep up with. It’s quite a juggling act.
Morgen: I gave up my job in March, just have a dog and still know that feeling. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jan: Both. My first novel had no outline. It was completely character-created. I had an outline with Embody, but it went off track. I had a great outline with Rogue’s Hollow. Now when I look back on it, it’s almost comical how far off it went. My characters are my muses and they lead my stories where they should go.
Morgen: Don’t they just, and I love that about them. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Jan: I base my characters from real people that I know. I have to get a vision in my mind of the person before I can imagine what they would do in a situation. I love coming up with their names and often use my friends and family. Funny story; I was writing early one morning, working on Rogue’s Hollow. I posted on Facebook that I was spending time with Malachi and Travis. My cousin, Renay, asked me who Malachi and Travis were. When I told her they were the characters in my latest book, she chimed in with her quick-witted sarcasm and said, “Why can’t you use normal names. Your characters always have weird names.” It just so happened that I was writing a scene about an old witch who used to live in Rogue’s Hollow at that time. The old witch was given the name of Miss Renay. Be careful and don’t tick off a writer. They’ll surely use you in one of their books!
Morgen: I have a t-shirt which reads, ‘Careful or you’ll end up in my next novel’. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jan: I definitely don’t have to edit as much as I used to. When I look back through my first novel, it can be embarrassing. I had issues with grammar and tenses. I’m much better now, but I still do quite a bit of editing and polishing to make them shine.
Morgen: It’s all about practice, isn’t it. If we were learning the piano and recorded our early efforts, or painted and dug out our early pieces… Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jan: Yes, I wrote a manuscript titled CandyKizz. It’s in diary format much like Go Ask Alice. It is a coming of age story told through a troubled young girl’s eyes. The issue is that I went too far and it is way too graphic for publication in its current form. It will need a lot of re-writes before I even attempt to publish that one.
Morgen: But at least now you’re wiser about knowing where to fix it. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jan: Oh my. Too many to count. They tend to take the wind out of your sails, but then you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. I’m expecting rejections and I’m pleasantly surprised if someone praises my work. I have pretty low self-esteem. 🙂
Morgen: What a shame, especially as you have 25,000 readers who (hopefully) like it. I like to think that rejections are just the right thing for the wrong person. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Jan: I think agents are worth their weight in gold. Especially if you’re like me and hate self-promotion. I just haven’t been lucky enough to find one yet. I’ve given up on searching for one and I’m waiting for the perfect agent to find me… what are the odds?
Morgen: It’s worked that way round for some people… or self-publishing and then picking up a publisher, at least. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Jan: I market every day. Even if it’s just on Facebook and Twitter. It can be a full-time job in itself.
Morgen: It certainly can, especially if you add blogging to that list. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jan: I love those quiet times when it’s just me and my imaginary friends. The thing that has shocked me the most is how much the characters actually come to life. I find myself talking to them, which terrifies my teenage daughter. There is a fine line between creativity and insanity when you’re a writer.
Morgen: So do I – my dog’s used to it now, especially when I start waving my arms around, replicating whatever it is I have them doing. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jan: Just to never give up. I am not a formal writer. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my mid-forties. When I read other peoples ‘formal rules of writing’ it makes me cringe. Much of it, I don’t agree with. But, I think that’s what makes me different and unique. Yeah, there’s a protocol which authors follow, but isn’t it fun to color outside the lines sometimes? I’m just too rebellious to do what I’m told that I have to do. I’d rather let the readers decide.
Morgen: Which is how self-publishing comes into its own – it’s just you and the readers. I’ve attempted the agent route (only just over a dozen) Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Jan: There’s a certain line from Rogue’s Hollow that I love; “Welcome to the Old Mill General Store. Where strangers are just friends we’ve yet to meet.”
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Jan: All three of my books are on Amazon in book and Kindle formats.
Morgen: Thank you, Jan, for joining me today. I hope it’s been worth the wait. 🙂
I then invited Jan to include an extract of her writing and this is from Rogue’s Hollow:
Warm summer sunshine speckled through the forest leaves, adding a carefree feel to the day as the young couple drove their black Saab down the gravel country lane. They couldn’t help but feel the history of the quaint town as they meandered through the back roads. Houses were few and far between in Rogue’s Hollow, with a whopping population of seventy-nine. Most people who lived there were old-timers with deep family roots to the area. There wasn’t much left to entice the younger generation…except for the ghosts.
And a synopsis of her book ‘Rogue’s Hollow’…
In a place where legend and unspoken truth have been hidden for centuries, how much longer will it be before the secrets are revealed? The deceptions are frightening, but the truth is terrifying…
Malachi Chidester runs the Old Mill General Store in Rogue’s Hollow. Many secrets hide in the dungeons of his past, but he must confront the unknown before the truth may emerge.
When Malachi befriends a young man from a neighboring town, the horrific truth is finally exposed. Both men will be forced to face the traumatic details of their past and make decisions which may lead them down a dark and uncertain path.
Ghosts are the least of their Concerns. Is history destined to repeat itself or will someone have the strength to stand up to the evil lurking in the shadows of Rogue’s Hollow?
Jan Tilley was born and raised in northern Ohio. Enticed by the Atlantic Ocean, she later moved to Wilmington, North Carolina and now resides in Indiana.
She has held a wide array of jobs throughout the years, including newspaper reporter, veterinary assistant, Public Information Officer for Emergency Management, and currently works at a local elementary school. But, her most important job has been raising her two daughters, Sara and Brooke. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Kevin since 1985.
Jan wrote her first novel “Coming About” after her oldest daughter went off to college. She began writing about her feelings over the loss of her child to the big bad world. It began as a purging of emotions but as they always do, the characters came alive and took the story down a totally different path that she never expected.
She was then bitten by the bug and is now admittedly obsessed with writing. Her second novel “Embody” was released to rave reviews. She was recently featured on The Kevin Smith Show where she discussed the book in a live two-hour interview. “Rogue’s Hollow” is her latest release which is a suspenseful ride, fictionally based on a spooky town near where she grew up.
Tilley is an award-winning author who has been a guest speaker at multiple conferences and events. Her books have been sold world-wide and she is more than happy to accommodate interviews.
She will continue to write her heart out and do her best to entertain you for as long as you’ll welcome her into your lives!
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
** NEW!! You can now subscribe to the main blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!
or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my Books (including my debut novel, which is serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at the main blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.